New high school principal ready to compete

HOLYOKE – “There is nothing more important than acquiring a good education.”
Truer words were never spoken and incoming Westfield High School principal Jonathan Carter beamed with pride as they left his lips at Holyoke’s War Memorial on May 31, congratulating the 96 graduates of William J. Dean Technical High School’s class of 2013.
In his sixteen months on the job at Dean Tech, the school has made tremendous leaps in resuscitating an image that has been marred in recent years by poor testing performance, low attendance and an ungodly suspension rate.
Under Carter, Dean Tech cut its suspension rate by 50 percent, a 66 percent decrease from 2011, along with decreasing its dropout rate by 33 percent, and increasing attendance to its highest rate in eight years.
While the school remains classified as a Level 4 school by the Massachusetts Department of Education as one of the lowest performing public schools in the state, it improved its performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, as well as increased its graduation rate under Carter.
Now, after helping to stabilize one of the most troubled schools in the Commonwealth, the 41-year old father of two is on the road again, and is excited to assist in Westfield High School’s recovery.
Though certainly not in as dire straits as Dean Tech, Westfield High finds itself in a Level 3 classification as one of the lowest performing 20 percent of schools in the state, due to its “low” percentage of students participating in the MCAS, less than 90 percent, a testament to the rigorous standards of the Massachusetts Department of Education, rigorous standards which Carter’s schools are all too familiar with.
Having served as principal at three high schools, starting in Springfield at the High School of Commerce and the High School of Science and Technology prior to his stay at Dean Tech, Carter has made it his mission to improve these underperforming schools through two passions which have guided his life: science and technology.
“I remember having orthopedic surgery when I was young, and I was at home when my father brought home a computer,” the former Colgate University soccer player said. “After that, I was intrigued by it. I’d take it apart and put it back together.”
Born in Pittsford, New York, a suburb of Rochester, Carter took up a major in English Literature along with a History minor while competing on the NCAA Division One Raiders soccer team, but he kept his passion for technology close to his heart. His father Lawrence worked for Xerox for three decades, a company which Carter the younger also worked for starting in 1994.
During the ’90s tech boom, Carter worked with numerous startup companies, but felt himself being called to a different profession. When his wife Beth took up a residency working at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Carter took the opportunity to switch tracks, kissing corporate America goodbye to begin a new career in education.
After obtaining a master’s degree in Education from UMass-Amherst, Carter began teaching U.S. History and American Government and Politics at Springfield’s Central High School, where he remained for five years.
In 2010, Carter made the jump to the administration side, accepting the principal’s position for Central’s cross-town rival, the High School of Commerce.
Following a short stay at Commerce, Carter jumped to Sci-Tech, completing the Springfield high school trifecta, which then led to his hiring at Dean Tech in early 2012.
Despite his nomadic career as an administrator thus far, Carter believes each of those stops taught him a great deal about education.
“I learned a lot in some very challenging environments,” said Carter, who resides with his family in West Springfield.
When asked of what he plans to implement on Montgomery Road, Carter intends to seek advice and guidance from departing principal Ray Broderick saying “He’s been very supportive”, while also “watching, looking and listening for the first six months about how to improve the school.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Westfield High’s renaissance will be driven by Carter’s experiences leading schools that were either underperforming, focused on technology, or both.
“I want to bring a 21st Century education to Westfield High School, and technology needs to be at the forefront,” said Carter, “Eighty percent of jobs in America today require a master’s degree for a candidate to be competitive, and in an increasingly technological world, our students need to be equipped with the skills to compete.”

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